Greetings from the Twin Cities! Today begins a week long road trip to Minnesota and North Dakota in which I will have the privilege of watching some of the very best 17 and 18 year old hockey players on planet Earth.
The World Junior Championships held just after Christmas garner far more attention, but in some respects the World Under 18 Championships are more useful for scouting. For example, if you took a hard look at the rosters of Team USA and Team Canada at the World Juniors this year, only a handful of undrafted prospects made those rosters. If you want to see the American and Canadian players who will be picked in the 1st and 2nd rounds, the World U-18 features many more than the World Juniors Under-20.
I will be watching the round robin section of the tournament. Each day there are four games being played at two different rinks in Fargo ND and Moorhead MN. It is only possible to watch two per day since the games run concurrently. My schedule is not set in stone but here is a list of my tentative hockey watching plans.
Thursday: Czech vs Sweden, Finland vs Russia. (Watch the best of Europe Day)
Friday: Slow day in the round robin, I intend to drive back to Minneapolis-St. Paul to catch the Wild's final home game and check out the Xcel Energy Center.
Saturday: Canada vs Swiss, USA vs Finland (Watch the best North Americans Day)
Sunday: Norway vs Russia
Monday: Czech vs Canada, USA vs Slovakia
Tuesday: Canada vs Sweden, Russia vs USA (great match up day)
I will post some observations about the players expected to be taken in the NHL draft his summer. Of course, I'm most interested in observing future Atlanta Thrashers but I have no way of knowing who will be wearing light blue in June. The Thrashers have shown a tendency to draft Americans who are headed off to college so I'm guessing at least guy on the Team USA will have his named called by Atlanta in a few months.
Here's a short story about the U-18 in the USA Today.